Inspection report arrives a year later: “Prison conditions threaten inmates’ health” in St. Maarten

POSTED: 07/3/12

St. Maarten – Medical facilities in the Pointe Blanche prison are outdated and not easily accessible, a report written by the Inspection of the ministry for public health, social development and labor concludes. Five inspectors visited the prison on May 27 of last year. Mr. Shaira Bommel, the attorney for the Inmates Association, received a copy of the report last week.

The inspection team went to the prison after receiving complaints about “serious unhygienic situations,” the report states.

“In the current condition, the Pointe Blanche prison is a threat to the inmates’ health.”

The inspectors conclude that the level of medical facilities is “irresponsible.” Access to the general practitioner is “decided by an untrained prison guard and then by a nurse. The doctor has consulting hours only during two half days per week; next to that he is on call for emergencies.”

The inspectors found that the consultation and treatment room is on the first floor of a building and only accessible via a steep staircase. The doctor is limited in establishing diagnoses and in treating patients due to a lack of equipment.
The inspectors found more reasons for concern: emergencies always encounter delays because the doctor is not continuously present, there are no facilities in the prison for emergency car and ambulances are unable to enter the prison because the prison gates have been blocked for years. “The gates will have to be repaired or otherwise another access road must be created,” the inspectors recommend.

Specialist care takes place at the practice of the specialist. This requires special transport. There is insufficient or no psychological help available.

The inspectors conclude that medical care has to be made more accessible and that facilities have to be located at the ground floor. They also recommend more frequent consultation hours, and training for prison guards in the principles of pathology and basic life support. The sick bay and the doctor’s office “must meet the quality requirements of our time.” Lastly, the inspectors recommend a service agreement with a pharmacy and to charge it with the supply of and supervision over medication.

Sanitary conditions are also not up to par, the inspectors found.

“They have the potential to cause the outbreak of diseases. There are already indications of skin diseases among inmates.”
The report recommends modernization of waste water management, the replacement of all toilets and the installation of proper showerheads. Furthermore the prison needs to build an industrial laundry equipped with dryers to prevent the formation of mold on clothing that is currently hung to dry in the prison’s corridors. Taps for drinking water need to be equipped with filters and these filters have to be replaced regularly.

“People have a tendency to react to their environment,” the report notes.

“If that environment does not meet hygienic standards, people are forced to go in survival mode and this will not result in the rehabilitation if inmates. Under the current conditions the living environment in the Pointe Blanche prison will only lead to a further deterioration of the human mind and result in repeated contacts with justice.”

The inspectors noted that the prison kitchen “in general” meets standards. The only thing missing is a facility where the inmates that prepare the food are able to wash their hands.

The place where food is served, on the other hand, is not fit for use.

“Sewage drain pipes are running directly above this space; it was very unhygienic and needs to be renovated and cleaned up.”